GM, Unifor resume talks as CAMI strike continues

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Canadian union Unifor met with General Motors on Sunday and presented a “comprehensive” labor proposal to the company in an attempt to end the week-long strike at CAMI Assembly.

Unifor Local 88 President Dan Borthwick, in an interview with Automotive News Canada, said the union’s proposal is similar to those made during failed contract talks earlier this month. He said it includes a demand that the plant be named the lead producer of the Chevrolet Equinox, which has been a major sticking point between Unifor and GM.

“We are trying to initiate some talks to resolve this dispute with the company,” he said. “This proposal basically remains similar to our previous demands, where we need job security and to be named as the lead producer.”

Today’s talks between GM and Unifor appear to be the first time the two sides have formally negotiated since the strike began. The union said late last week that it had been in daily, informal talks with GM but had not formally negotiated.

A request for comment from GM was not immediately returned.

Borthwick and Unifor National President Jerry Dias have repeatedly said that the union would not agree to a tentative contract unless CAMI is designated as the lead producer of the Equinox.

Union leaders fear GM could shift Canadian Equinox production and jobs to Mexico, as the automaker did earlier this year when it sent GMC Terrain crossover production from CAMI to a Mexican plant. The move resulted in the loss of about 600 jobs at CAMI, including about 200 workers that took buyouts or early retirement packages.

Borthwick said he would be “surprised” to hear back from GM on Sunday, saying the automaker’s local negotiators need to communicate with officials at its Detroit headquarters first.

“We’re hoping they understand the seriousness and the resolve of our members,” he said.

The CAMI plant, which employs about 2,750 people, has been on strike since last Sunday night, when the plant’s previous labor contract expired following a contentious round of negotiations.

The strike, the first by Canadian workers against a Detroit automaker since 1996, has already had wide-ranging consequences for both GM and suppliers to the plant.

GM must now rely upon its San Luis Potosi and Ramos Arizpe plants in Mexico to partially make up for lost production of the Equinox, its top-selling crossover. The plants have combined to build 40,017 Equinox crossovers since April, when production began there. CAMI has produced 132,288 Equinoxes through August, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

GM’s St. Catharines, Ont., powertrain plant, which builds transmissions for the Equinox, appears likely to temporarily lay off about 300 employees this week as it halts Equinox transmission production because of the strike.

Magna International, the largest Canadian auto supplier, said last week that it halted production of parts to the CAMI plant. It said the decision would impact some of its Ontario facilities but did not provide details.

Greg Layson contributed to this report.

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